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Link Farms: What You Need To Know

Posted on 4.28.2008

There are many link strategies available to help your site achieve exceptional (traffic garnering) rankings. Articles, press releases, forums, blogs, social media resources - all provide accepted ways to generate links that can positively influence search engine rankings - if it's done well and thoughtfully, of course.

Directories, however, are both good and bad. There are many quality directories where you can submit your website and gain traffic - for example, the Yahoo! Directory, DMOZ (if you can get in) and others. But directories get a bad rap, for the most part. That's becuase there are thousands of low-quality directories which many webmasters don't discriminate against when it comes to submitting their sites, even though they probably should. The reason these directories are bad is because most are no more than vast link farms - massive collections of links. Leveraging link farms has been practiced for a long time and it continues today. It should be something you should avoid. If for no other reason than that Google penalizes these sites. And by linking with them, your site will be penalized too.

Conceptualizing Link Farms
The initial idea behind link farming was to get as many links as possible. It didn’t matter if the sites were relevant or not, as search engines would supposedly consider a site more popular than another because it has so many links pointing to it. Most of the links in link farms have no relational subject matter to each other. They will most likely have a page on a site with a extended list of hyperlinked keywords - called anchor text - pointing to the various sites in the farm. When search engines see that a link farm has formed, they will penalize all involved, thus dropping ranks. Some have reported increased rankings at first, but soon after report a drop lower than where they started.

So how do you know which directory is a link farm and which is not? There are a few indisputable signs of a link farm you should look out for:

- Requires reciprocal linking: Directories that mandate a link to their site before they link to yours is a sure sign of a link farm.
- Link value diluted: Farms often list of hundreds of sites on a page several levels deep with little or no description about the site being linked to.
- Unsolicited link requests: If  emails arrive telling you how great your site is and you should form a partnership with them, watch out.
- Tell-tale sign posts: Link farms are all the same. If the directory or site features a page called “Link Partners” or “Links” - run away.
- No discrimination for sites included: Without a review period, you can be sure that all sorts of irrelevant sites will be featured.

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